Douglas Dayton, who led the transformation of a family department store into retailing giant
Dayton's wife, Wendy Dayton, confirmed his death Sunday. She said the resident of Wayzata, west of Minneapolis, died Friday after a long battle with cancer.
Douglas James Dayton was the youngest of George Nelson Dayton's five sons. He took over the family's downtown Minneapolis department store from their father in 1948.
Born in Minneapolis on Dec. 2, 1924, Douglas Dayton started working in the family business after serving during World War II in an Army infantry division in Europe, where he was injured and received a Purple Heart.
Having worked as a store manager, Dayton sensed the threat of discount retailers like Kmart. In 1960, he became the first president of Target, and within two years, the company had opened four stores in the Twin Cities suburbs.
"Target was the best job I had," he recalled in a May interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
According to an obituary prepared by his family, Douglas Dayton left his post as president of Target in 1968 and returned to corporate headquarters to help run the Dayton-Hudson department store parent company. That business eventually was consolidated into Target Corp.
The company has expanded nationally and into Canada and is now ranked No. 36 on the Fortune 500 list. The Dayton family has not been involved in its ownership or operations for a number of years. Most of the former Dayton's department stores in Minnesota are now operated by Macy's.
Dayton left the company in 1974 and formed a venture capital firm. He retired in 1994 but remained active in a number of charitable and philanthropic groups.
"He and his brothers shared a common vision for improvement to the community and to give back what the community had given them," Wendy Dayton said Sunday. She said he focused his philanthropic efforts on expanding access to education and on social justice, and to preservation of the arts and nature.